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Legendary St. John's football coach John Gagliardi retires

November 19, 2012|By Chris Dufresne
  • St. John's University head Coach John Gagliardi smiles as he announces his retirement.
St. John's University head Coach John Gagliardi smiles as he announces… (Kimm Anderson / Associated…)

John Gagliardi, who became the winningest football coach in NCAA history at Division III St. John's (Minn.) using an off-beat approach that included no practicing if there were too many gnats, announced Monday he was retiring after 60 seasons.

Gagliardi, 86, leaves with a career coaching record of 489-138-11. He eclipsed Grambling Coach Eddie Robinson's all-divisions victories record of 408 in 2003 with a win over Bethel.

Gagliardi won four national championships with an unconventional approach that was incorporated by Minnesota Vikings' Coach Bud Grant. Two of Grant's sons played for Gagliardi.

"It's unbelievable that I could make a living with a career in a game that is so popular and is such a huge business," Gagliardi told the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Monday after announcing his retirement. "To be a small part of that has just been wonderful." 

Gagliardi was famous for his list of "no rules." St. John's did not allow tackling during practice and did not have team captains or cheerleaders. Gagliardi never used a whistle and his players had strict orders to call him "John" instead of "coach." 

"I eliminate the unnecessary," Gagliardi once told the Times. "And I think almost everything is unnecessary."

Gagliardi started his coaching career in 1949 at Carroll College in Helena, Mont. He earned $2,500 per year and coached football, basketball and baseball.

Gagliardi was 26 when he was hired at St. John's in Collegeville, Minn. He replaced Johnny "Blood" McNally, the former Green Bay Packers' star, whose parting words to Gagliardi were "Nobody could ever win at St. John's."

Gagliardi exits with 64 total years as a head coach, far outdistancing the previous record of 57 by Amos Alonzo Stagg.

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